No Conservatives on Columbia School of Journalism Gay Marriage Panel

Academic talk imitates life in biased discussion.

When the signature publication of the nation’s most elite journalism school hosts a panel discussion on how reporters cover the gay marriage debate, you’d expect the same level of thoughtful balance the media generally gives the topic. Which is to say none at all. And the June 12 Newseum event hosted by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) and sponsored by the ACLU didn’t disappoint. 

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism is America’s most prestigious journalism school, and its graduates can be found throughout the establishment and left-wing media. Columbia established the CJR in 1961 to “encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society.” The publication “monitors and supports the press as it works across all platforms.” 

Of course, in the controversy over same-sex marriage, “excellence in journalism” is measured by how effectively journalists champion the gay side. By that light, the panel, centered around the two cases challenging the Supreme Court – the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8 – was wildly successful. 

Titled, “We Now Pronounce You …?,” the panel was comprised exclusively of “marriage equality” supporters: BuzzFeed reporter Chris Geidner, George Washington law professor David Fontana, New York Times columnist and former president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Steven Petrow, and EJ Graff, an American Prospect columnist. CJR’s Jennifer Vanasco moderated the event. 

During the Q & A after the discussion, a freelance journalist noted, “Everybody on the panel seems rather sympathetic to the cause and I’m wondering why the Columbia Journalism Review didn’t put together a panel that maybe more reflected different opinions given that there are still many.” 

Vanasco said that she had invited one – just one: “Sure, this is a great question and you know I tried to get somebody more conservative to be on our panel. No luck.” 

A CJR tweet suggested that CJR took great pains to invite multiple conservatives, echoed the exchange: “Another audience qu: Why didn’t @cjr put together a panel with broader opinions? #cjrgaymarriage A: No conservatives agreed to join panel.” 

The panel earlier explored the language of gay marriage. Graff expressed disdain for “gay marriage,” as the term seems to refer more toward men rather than lesbians. While “there is no good answer to the language question,” and the term “marriage equality” appeared “coded with a point of view,” [ya think?] she recommended describing traditional marriage as “conventional marriage” or “marriage restricted to a man and woman.” Petrow said he’d once used the term “opposite-sex marriage” in a Times column.

The discussion also focused on how popular opinion swayed towards gay marriage – and, predictably, a lot of self congratulation for the media’s role in manipulating that opinion.